I went for my second dialectical behavior therapy session with my psych nurse a few days ago. DBT combines mindfulness, psycho-education, CBT, stress tolerance and other skills together into a therapeutic package. I am learning tools to identify negative behaviors and change patterns and ways of thinking.
The DBT Surprise and Self Image
I have to say I never thought it a million years that doing a 'Behavior Chain' exercise would have such a significant impact on me. This exercise identifies target behaviors and behaviors in which to assess and eventually change. Most of you know about my self-image issues already but I did not know what I was 'doing' to really make it worse. I look in the mirror a lot; assessing the way I look, scoffing and saying 'ugh' aloud at this image and it doesn't stop there. I look at my reflection when I pass buildings with reflective windows and judge myself harshly by how wide I look from the side. I thought the answer to my problems was to eat well and lose weight and I would feel better. Yes, the weight is slowly coming off, but not fast enough for me to be happy about it really, but something is missing from my approach.
The Roots of my Issues with Self-Image
As I was instructed to say 'goodbye' to my problem behavior of looking at the mirror, I wrote a long paragraph detailing how I felt about that behavior and I am quoted to have said, "You have been around for quite some time, criticizing me, making me feel unworthy and unloved and this a form of mental abuse! I would not put up with a man again that mentally abused me, like my ex for 3 years, so why would I put up with the negative behavior? Well I did and being pressured to lose weight and having him look at me in horror when I stepped on the scale has scarred me deeply. Rushing to weight loss clinics and trying diet after diet has left me broken. His constant grabbing of my belly and making fun of me in a cruel way. Being careful to ALWAYS suck in my tummy and being the brunt of more abuse by being called a 'C' word every other day for the last 3 months of the relationship. This experience has left me angry but I have buried it deep down thinking it is better to be forgiving and move on." I never expected to cry the gut wrenching cry that I did while reading the paragraph and it actually felt like 'I' was shifting and transforming in my own mind. This realization moved me to know that this mental abuse scarred me deeper than I ever could imagine.
So What am I Going to Do About it?
So, the target behavior is looking in the mirror right? Yup. Easy enough, don't look in the mirror then? Do you know how hard it is to change a pattern? My nurse and I agreed that I would cover all my mirrors up particularly with my favorite color pink, and to do it in my favorite color pink! So today I am covering all my mirrors with paper to rid of the target behavior. Sound weird? It may be but I want to break this negative behavior and I will do it for as long as I have to. Until I can actually look at myself in the mirror and appreciate my image, the paper is going to stay up. No more searching for validation and perfection in the mirror. I feel this exercise will make me appreciate and love myself by breaking the habit and adjust my brain to new ways of acting and being.
I am not lying to myself anymore and it is time to truly stop the behaviors that have been contributing to my self-hate. I also know now it is ok to be angry, recognize it and when I am ready to move on from it, I know I will, I will do so when I truly forgive. For now I will wrap my mirrors like presents and be proud by this action as I am bettering my life and well-being. I finished my paragraph by saying goodbye to the behavior with "I hope you will stop torturing all of the other women out there in the world because life is too precious to hate yourself." I don't want to hate myself anymore and I am grateful that I have taken action with my nurse to do DBT. It is the tools we learn that help us grow and change and frankly I am ready! Thanks for reading if you have, I really do appreciate it. xo Andrea